One of Australia's largest fresh cut salad producers has entered the export market, as the industry returns to the pre-2016 salmonella outbreak levels.
OneHarvest predominantly supplies private label fresh cut salads to the domestic retail market, but is at the start of its export business journey, with fresh sealed beetroot now on shelves in retailers throughout Asia. But Managing Director, Sam Robson says the company has had increased production across the board over the past twelve months.
"Our projected orders have increased from December 2016 to December 2017 driven largely by returning consumer confidence in the category," he said. "The industry has taken some pro-active steps to ensure a safer, fresher offer to consumers and the growth in consumption data would indicate the consumer has recognised this and re-engaged with the category."
But Mr Robson says a major Salmonella and gross contaminant issue suffered by one of their competitors had a dramatic impact across the industry and to consumer confidence, and that is why health and safety is a number one priority.
"The entire category experienced an immediate 40 per cent drop in consumption and we are only now seeing consumption return to pre-February 2016 levels," Mr Robson said. "Our two main areas of focus coming out of the February 2016 events have been contaminant management and effective composting. We’ve upgraded OneHarvest’s good agricultural processes regarding these areas of focus, and have been leading industry wide improvements in food safety culture and supply chain processes. Working with the support of PMA-ANZ, Freshcare and the Fresh Salad Producers Group we have engaged growers, other processors, and retailers in the industry to deliver assured quality and improved farming practices nationally, including a new fertiliser standard for industry which is currently in final stages of development with implementation of this standard planned for the first half of 2018."
Mr Robson says the company works closely with our growers to ensure they are consistently executing high quality food safety practices on their farms in order to control foreign bodies on farm.
"Our teams have been on the road visiting growers and educating farm workers in preparation for the season," he said. "Our farms and farmers are confident the industry wide food safety focus, seasonal uplift and improved consumer offers will sustain the current demand momentum and see a successful summer across the industry."
OneHarvest believes the fresh cut salad offer is consistently increasing and improving as consumers are leading busier lives, with a growing interest in healthier lifestyles.
"We’re lucky to be working in such an innovative and exciting category. We are meeting two of the biggest macro trends in recent times – health and convenience," Mr Robson said. "However, this means our industry has a high-level of responsibility to consumers, and that we’re consistently focused on delivering safe and quality food products."
Spinach is the company's biggest selling produce variety overall, across a variety of bag sizes and retailers, according to Mr Robson.
"Our research show us that consumers are purchasing their spinach and mixed leaf salad bags along with rocket, pine nuts, feta and ricotta cheeses, sundried tomatoes, quinoa and gourmet dressings," he said. "This would insinuate consumers are looking for alternative and more gourmet salad solutions to keep mealtime interesting. Consumer research has uncovered that shoppers consider their salad bags like a pizza base – the blank canvas to which they can add their favourite toppings to create and customise a meal perfect for their family or usage occasion."